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Number of animals used for science in EU drops 5% in a year


Fewer than nine million animals were used for scientific purposes in 2018

The number of animals used for science in the EU dropped by 5 per cent between 2017 and 2018, the latest figures from the European Commission have revealed.

In total, the 28 countries that formed the EU in 2018 used about 8.92 million animals for science that year, down from about 9.39m in 2017, according to data published on 14 July.

This continued a downward trend from about 9.82m in 2016, although in 2015 the figure was lower at about 9.59m.

The kinds of animals used in 2018 were “relatively stable”, according to the Commission. Mice made up just over 52 per cent, followed by fish at about 26 per cent and rats at 9.5 per cent.

The data covers animals used in basic and applied research; regulatory studies testing the safety of medicines and other products; production of blood products and antibodies; and education and training.

Kirk Leech, executive director of the European Animal Research Association, which campaigns for improved awareness, said the figures “demonstrate the commitment the biomedical sector is showing to being open and transparent about the important work it does”.

He said they came “at a time of growing activist pressure on the Commission to immediately end the use of animal research”, even though the past year had demonstrated “the vital contribution that research using animals has had during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Spanish scheme

Meanwhile, Spain’s National Cancer Research Center announced it is launching a postdoctoral grant programme for research that uses alternatives to traditional animal models.

The programme, announced on 15 July, is being offered in cooperation with the Swiss conservation and animal welfare charity, the Franz Weber Foundation.

The Spanish science ministry said the programme would support early career researchers to use animal alternatives, such as synthetic human organoids and computer models.